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What makes Cisco’s Intelligent Automation so Intelligent?

This is a must read for those who want to deeply understand the philosophy behind Cisco’s automation product portfolio

It should not be news to you that Cisco has invested in software products to drive the management and automation of clouds, datacenters, and applications.  Intelligent Automation is the name that we have for the management and orchestration solutions in the Intelligent Automation Solutions Business Unit in Cisco’s Cloud and Systems Management Technology Group.

What is so intelligent about Cisco’s automation products?  Besides the official marketing and product management answers, I polled our Business Unit and Advanced Services teams and got the following responses (which I distilled a bit).  Oh and by the way, one constraint was that we cannot use Intelligent in the definition of Intelligent Automation (harder than you might think).

The top winners for the best contributions are:  Oleg Danilov (Solution Architect), Mynul Hoda (Technical Leader), Peter Charpentier (Solution Architect), Frank Contrepois (Network Consulting Engineer) and Devendran Rethinavelu (QA Engineer).

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Cloud Developers, do you Speak Cloud?

My family and I have been going to Mexico on vacation for the past twelve years, pretty much every other year we spend a week in Cancun or somewhere on the Mayan Riviera. Every time we book our trip I plan to buy a Spanish language learning course and be prepared when I get there, but never do and I’m never prepared. Not that you need to know Spanish, there’s plenty of English spoken, I just want to be better at communicating.

I’ve often thought, wouldn’t it be great if everyone spoke the same language, and then communicating would be very easy. However my children and I speak the same language, my wife and I speak the same language yet we sometimes have difficulty understanding one another. Then it comes down to nuance and semantics and properly parsing what has been communicated. What I really need is a Rosetta Stone of sorts, one that shows me what my children say and what it actually means. Even better would be one that shows the translation for what a spouse says and what is actually meant.

From a programming perspective I have often been asked “What language should I know?”, “What is the best fit?”, “What do you use?” I always answer in the same completely unambiguous way… “It depends.” Then I ask my questions. What is the programming language that your IT staff knows the best? Is that a language that has a good level of support? What OS are you comfortable on? What format is your data in? Do you already have standards that you need to adhere to? Etc…

After I pepper them with so many of my own questions and they are dizzy from the interrogation, I give them my one unambiguous answer, the language of the Cloud is XML and the Rosetta Stone of the Cloud is XSLT with XPATH.
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Cisco at EMC World : Transformational Data Center Architecture

After several days  at SAPPHIRE 2012 in Orlando, Florida , where I got to attend amongst many other activities an interesting dialog between EMC Doc d’Errico  and Cisco VP Server Access and Virtualization BU Satinder Sethi (stay tuned video coming very soon) , I am back on the show floor this time in Las Vegas for EMC World.

In case you still don’t know (really?) , Cisco and EMC have a very close partnership on many fronts , as one of our very active blogger and speaker Jay Metz was highlighting yesterday in carrying proudly  this nice Infographics.

Obviously one of the main topic on the booth was Cisco UCS , whether as a stand alone platform, or integrated in a stack like Vblock, the solution provided jointly by Cisco , EMC and VMware under the brand VCE (check VCE Tom Chatham blog on EANTC Cloud Mega Test )

Recently Cisco and EMC deepened this partnership

“Cisco and EMC have a long history of partnering together for the benefit of our mutual customers, from storage solutions to the original Vblock to VSPEX.  For those of you who missed the announcement, VSPEX is a reference design program to help guide customers as they build out their next generation of infrastructure.  With our own success with the Cisco Validated Design program, we know this is an effective tool for customers as they look for trusted resources to guide infrastructure investment decisions. “wrote Omar Sultan in his blog  “VSPEX: our Continuing Exploits with EMC” 

So we invited today on the booth EMC Director and blogger Brian Gracely , our friend, blogger and reseller from Varrow  Jason Nash and Cisco Virtualization Architect Ron Valente to share with us the excitement of this first day .

In this short video, our 3 experts talk about “easy to use and manage “. Interesting enough, I was also attending yesterday  a Webex session about users based on a very large panel of Cisco customers . According to this survey, one of the major interests for our customers to visit high tech website such as Cisco, is to find information about how the systems are  “easy to use, configure, and manage”.

If you are in Las Vegas today, I’d like to make some suggestions for this second day at EMC World

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Cisco’s Cloud Verse, VCE and EANTC Cloud Mega Test


Tom Chatham is a Principal vArchitect with VCE Corporate Engineering responsible for delivering VCE solutions, customer solution testing, technical marketing events and evangelizing private cloud. 16 years of experience in the industry, most of that time spent focused on storage, virtualization and unified computing. Including extensive network infrastructure, systems architecture and business continuity.

Tom is at EMC World in Las Vegas  these days and on Twitter @tchatham – Check booths 410 or 515 .

I asked Tom to share  his experience and point of view on the EANTC Cloud Mega Test  – here is what he sent me


“Over the past four to five months, there has been significant buzz about VCE’s role in the EANTC Cloud Mega Test.  I was lucky enough to be a part of the test team, and I wanted to share some of my experiences in working on this fantastic project with EANTC and Cisco.

It started with a bang, of course.  Back in late January, Light Reading published their first report on the testing EANTC had done of Cisco’s CloudVerse architecture. I was at Cisco Live London where details of the test were first shared and members of the CloudVerse team were in attendance to share the results. Over the next couple of months, EANTC followed that up with other reports in the series.  All in all, they covered the Cisco Unified Data Center that is the foundation for cloud services, Cloud Intelligent Networks, Cloud Applications & Services, and Long-haul Optical Transport used in delivering cloud-based services.  Of course, I wasn’t involved in all of that.

As with all of the Mega Test programs (the Mobile Mega Test and Medianet Mega Test being the ones that Light Reading conducted previously), these programs are a big deal.  Cisco spends millions of dollars – literally – on lab infrastructure, engineers and communications for each one of these tests.  Light Reading has EANTC come in to provide independent, objective oversight and testing.  And when the report comes out, there is a lot of buzz in the industry on exactly what went on.  It’s not every day we get to play in a multi-million dollar sandbox!  I was one of several dozen people from Cisco, VMware, VCE, EMC and Ixia working on this project.

As the buzz about the test bounced around in the industry, a sidebar conversation emerged about VCE’s involvement in the test. As you may know from social media, I’m a Principal vArchitect with VCE Corporate Engineering.  Essentially, my job is to make sure that customers get the most out of VCE’s technology – VblockTM Systems.  The Vblock system is pre-engineered, pre-tested converged infrastructure that combines Cisco’s computing and networking equipment, EMC’s storage equipment, and virtualization from VMware.  VCE itself operates as a joint venture between Cisco and EMC with investments from VMware and Intel.

One of the things that was missed in the excitement over the test results themselves was the fact that the Vblock system played a big part in the Cloud Mega Test.

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Multiprotocol Storage

Spring has come again for the storage industry, bringing with it new options in both storage and server hardware itself and the networks that connect them together. The rise of SSD (solid state disk), rising connectivity speeds for Ethernet and Fibre Channel, and a new awareness of the importance of storage from a virtualization standpoint mean that storage is experiencing growth and change. For years, the stand-by for storage networking was Fibre Channel.  Today, Fibre Channel (FC) is still the stand-by for storage networking, but there are more options.  Fibre Channel over Ethernet (FCoE), iSCSI, and the traditional file protocols of SMB and NFS are all viable enterprise-grade options to think about.

Its important to understand that despite sudden array of choices in the storage networking market, it is not necessary to simply pick a proverbial winner and run with it.  Every business has its own business needs and I.T. design goals for the data center and the storage environment contained therein.  Most large data centers today are primarily Fibre Channel environments, with a heavy investment in FC and FC-based storage arrays.  The principles of consolidation and network simplification would state that these large data centers should be converting over to FCoE, based on the management, cable, and capital reductions.  But the reality is far from that easy.

With a large investment in FC, companies simply cannot rip and replace the storage network and replace it with FCoE. Setting aside the huge disruption that would cause to operations, the waste of the existing investment in recently purchased FC equipment simply isn’t bearable.  Then there are technical challenges, older equipment such as main frames that require FICON connectivity, and the testing process that has to happen when a new technology is introduced into a data center environment.

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